Founded in 1999, the New America Foundation (NAF) is a public-policy think tank headquartered in Washington, DC, with a sister office in Sacramento, California. NAF’s mission is to “invest” in individuals and programs that have the capacity to influence public policy outside of “party politics.” To this end, NAF is concerned with seeding its ideas into the domain of public discourse, primarily through media outreach, policy papers (which may be used by officials to inform actual policy decisions), and public information events. As a corollary to this objective, NAF seeks to cultivate a new generation of policy leaders sympathetic to the NAF philosophy.
NAF’s leadership claims to represent the values of “the radical center,” a designation which NAF founder Ted Halstead and NAF fellow Michael Lind define in their book bearing that title. Writing in Salon magazine, Lind describes this “center radical” position as an “economic program” representing “an implicit repudiation of the center-right neoliberalism symbolized by Bill Clinton, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers.” “Our goal,” adds Lind, “[is] not to repeal the New Deal [of Franklin Roosevelt] but to adapt it to the circumstances of the 21st century.” Also integral to the NAF program, Lind and Halstead claim, is an effort to transcend the Right vs. Left paradigm that typically pits conservatives against leftists.
Halstead, who also founded the progressive think tank Redefining Progress, explains that NAF aims to serve as a “content provider” for the media. He has written extensively for The Washington Post and The New York Times, among other publications.
NAF’s current president, Steve Coll, is a former managing editor of The Washington Post and currently serves as a contributor for The New Yorker magazine. Many other NAF board members and staffers are associated with mainstream news outlets as well (see below). In addition, NAF staff and fellows frequently write for such publications as Foreign Policy, Prospect, The National, The Atlantic Monthly, The Los Angeles Daily News, Salon, Politico, The Fiscal Times, Haaretz, Rolling Stone, Slate, The Christian Science Monitor, and numerous others.
Since its early days, NAF has established vital associations with the computer technology industry. NAF board chairman Eric Schmidt, for instance, is the CEO of Google, Inc. Numerous NAF board members and funders are giants of Silicon Valley. Some are members of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), whose senior fellow Russell Mead played a role in NAF’s founding. Among the more notable NAF board members are the following (full list here):
David Bradley, chairman and owner of the Atlantic Media Company and a member of the CFR
James Fallows, a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly and former editor of _U.S. News and World Report
Dr. Atul A. Gawande, former Clinton administration health-policy advisor, staff member of The New Yorker magazine, and director for the World Health Organization
Laurene Powell Jobs, wife of Apple CEO Steve Jobs
Kati Marton, former chair of the International Women’s Health Coalition, board member of the International Rescue Committee and Human Rights Watch, member of the CFR, and faculty member at Al Quds University (a Palestinian school in East Jerusalem)
Richard Medley, a former partner, managing director, and chief political advisor of Soros Fund Management
Daniel Yergin, the only foreign member of the Russian Academy of Oil and Gas, and a trustee of the Brookings Institution
NAF also maintains a robust fellowship program, partly funded by the Knight Foundation. Among NAF’s fellows are:
Peter Beinart, former managing editor of _The New Republic
Peter Bergen, CNN’s national security analyst
Steven Clemons, board member of the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs
NAF oversees numerous programs and initiatives designed to influence public opinion on particularized topics. These programs typically disseminate their ideas via policy papers, media articles, books, and NAF-sponsored events. Among NAF’s more significant programs are the following:
Health Policy Program: NAF approved of the the 2010 federal healthcare overhaul bill because: (a) it would “offer a new image” of how Americans view dying; and (b) it would help “patients and their families to recognize” that: “[S]ometimes ‘doing everything’ results in more burden than benefit. High-tech medicine can prolong life, but for some patients, it merely draws out the process of dying.” In 2009, Health Policy Program director Len Nichols testified before Congress in support of a public health-insurance option.
Energy Policy Initiative: NAF advocates punitive taxation on the use of fossil fuels, for the purpose of forcing Americans to cut back their reliance on such energy sources. In 2010, NAF produced a policy paper in favor of implementing a “Smart Grid,” a government-controlled energy use/delivery system.
Global Governance Initiative: The director of this program, Parag Khanna, contends that global governance is inevitable and that, in fact, America has already embarked on an unalterable course toward this destination. According to Khanna, the world at large sits on the precipice of an epoch that will be marked by “fear, uncertainty, plagues, and violence,” which global governance will ultimately relieve. Khanna lauds the efforts of “postmodern Medicis such as Bill Gates, Anil Ambani, George Soros, and Richard Branson,” who “take it upon themselves” to “cure pandemics, run corporate cities, undermine authoritarian regimes, and sponsor climate-saving research.”
Middle East Task Force: NAF’s Middle East Task Force is highly critical of Israel and sympathetic toward Palestinian Arabs, whose anti-Israel activities allegedly “emulate the civil rights struggle [of blacks] in the United States and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.” Advancing the notion that the Israeli government is “occupying” Palestinian lands, NAF has called for U.S. sanctions against the Jewish State.
NAF receives funding from the following foundations, organizations, and individuals: the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Christopher Reynolds Foundation, the CIGNA Foundation, the Colombe Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Dancing Tides Foundation, the Ettinger Foundation, the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund, the Exxon-Mobil Corporation, the Ford Foundation, the Foundation for Child Development, the Foundation to Promote Open Society, the Fourth Freedom Forum, Free Press, Google Inc., the Hauser Foundation, H&R Block, Intel Corporation, the James Irvine Foundation, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Levi Strauss Foundation, the Liberty Hill Foundation, the Lockheed Martin Corporation, McKinsey & Company Inc., the Microsoft Corporation, the Open Society Institute, Pew Charitable Trusts, the Ploughshares Fund, the Proteus Fund, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Samuel Rubin Foundation, Save the Children, Wendy and Eric Schmidt, Bernard L. and Irene Schwartz, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, the George Wasserman Family Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
In addition, NAF has created a “Leadership Council” composed of individuals who have donated $25,000 or more to the organization. Among these luminaries are Neal Baer, executive producer of the television program Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; Craig Newmark, founder of CraigsList.org; and Jonathan Soros, president of Soros Fund Management and the son of George Soros.